Having returned from my first Cohort adventure, I am perplexed and excited by the tension caused by our discussions. On my stroll home I was tossing around the arguments for whether there needs to occur a missional movement (“emergent”) which is revolutionary for the institutional church or subversive.
I would imagine that the arguments for a revolutionary movement would say that the Gospel is revolutionary, that Jesus’ ministry was obviously revolutionary (thus his death), that the early church was revolutionary…And I concur with those assessments of the New Testament and early church. However, the current dialogue is not in regards to a deficient religious and political order, but is in regards to the established church, where God has and is continuing to work.
I am not willing to dismiss the 2000 year history of that church, which has undergone numerous revolutions, subversions, transformations and stagnation, as having lost the Spirit of Christ. And since the Kingdom of God broke into the world through the Incarnation-once and for all-and if the Spirit has been at all involved in the church, then I cannot support the revolutionary sentiment I seemed to hear tonight because it suggests that the Spirit is no longer in these outdated models.
While I disagree with a revolutionary model, I whole heartedly agree that a subversive movement needs to occur within the church, and my own story attests to this, so that a fuller/transformed understanding of God’s mission may emerge. Granted there is urgency because the Kingdom of God, God’s mission, is an urgent matter. Yet there also needs to be faith that the God who has formed and transformed the church in the past is capable of transforming the church again. Therefore, building up pockets of subversion within the established church, whether locally, denominationally, internationally, academically, will take time but allow for a fuller transformation of the entire body of Christ.
I am often disappointed that the resources the institutional church has received are being pitifully used in regards to mission, justice, and seminary education, but I do not see how the Gospel can promote a revolutionary movement against itself.
Again, obviously the initial movement of Jesus Christ was a revolution against the established hierarchical religious and political institutions, but that does not require for more or similar movements to occur. As Christology states, the salvific work of Christ was once and for all; If we believe that the breaking in of God’s Kingdom through Christ was sufficient for all of history, then we can claim that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Instead we can rearrange, innovate, reform (just not create) the church. Innovative and subversive movements that do not try to overturn but redirect the church’s mission, while time consuming, seem to be fuller expressions of the Gospel because they acknowledge that we worship a Risen Lord who has, is and will continue to work through the church.
Or maybe I am just mad that I am undergoing this whole candidacy phase and wish I could just go “Free Agent” after graduation (PS: if someone from my CPM is reading this…J/K).